Warming Shrimp and Lentil Dal

Hey everyone – it’s me! No, I didn’t die. But I was away spending time around lots of people who might be close in sunny Florida (land of palm trees, Disney and old people) with the hubs and best friend last week. After weeks of craziness at work it was a much needed vacation of sunshine bike rides, drinks by the pool, and laughs with two of my favourite people. Of course all the relaxation I had achieved was shot to shit after a nightmare trip home (think two cancelled flights, a night in a crappy motel, lost luggage and a whole lotta quarters in the swear jar) after which we finally arrived home to a giant dumping of snow over Toronto. Since I couldn’t turn around and take my freezing cold (but nicely bronzed) butt back to West Palm, I headed to the kitchen to warm up and calm down another way: whipping up a batch of my Warming Shrimp and Lentil Dal.

A hot bowl of soup is nice, but personally I find nothing more comforting in winter than the warm and aromatic spices of a good curry or other Indian dish. Dal (meaning split in Sanskrit) is used to describe dozens of popular Indian dishes featuring legumes like dried split peas, beans, and lentils made with curry, onions, tomatoes and lots of other spices and seasonings, and generally eaten with rice or bread.

My version is gluten-free and dairy-free, and features the mighty lentil – an awesome vegetarian protein and iron source. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Not getting enough iron in your diet can deplete your stores, leaving you feeling weak and tired. Lentils offer 3.3 milligrams of iron per ½-cup serving, which is 18% of a woman’s total daily requirement (18%) and 41% of a man’s daily requirement (8%). However, your body can’t absorb as much of the iron from plant-based lentils as it does from meat sources, so eating your lentils with a food rich in vitamin C, such as peppers, can help improve absorption (which is why my dal features red peppers alongside the lentils).

While I cannot look you in the face and tell you that eating a bowl of this dal is as good as drinking a margarita on the beach (I’m not that good of a liar), I CAN tell you that it’s a damn good way to cozy up and fill your belly on a cold winter night.

Yours Truly,

The Natural Blonde

p.s. Complete side note and a bit delayed – but can you believe we live in a world where you can literally — as in, not figuratively — conduct a intensely intimate relationship with someone you’ve never actually met or buy pretty much any item you can think of and have it delivered right to your door via the Internet without ever having to leave your bed, yet we still rely on a groundhog to foretell spring’s proximity? And worse – one who doesn’t perpetually tell us what we want to hear (ie. that spring is indeed right around the corner)? 6 more weeks, he says. Hell.

Warming Shrimp and Lentil Dal

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ cup yellow lentils (pre-soaked for a couple hours)*
  • 1 bag frozen raw shrimp, peeled and thawed
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander seed
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 8 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable for vegetarian version)
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (I use full fat but lite would be fine, too)
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrots and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Next, add in the spices and sauté for 30 seconds before adding the pepper, tomatoes, lentils, stock, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil before reducing heat and covering, allowing to simmer for 45 minutes.

At 45 minutes, add the shrimp and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk, spinach and cilantro, stirring until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is heated through. I serve over cauliflower rice (cauliflower that’s processed into a rice-like consistency in a food processor) but you can also use brown rice or quinoa. Enjoy!

Can be stored for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge – but makes an amazing next-day lunch.

*Note: you can make this dish vegetarian by removing the shrimp and increasing the lentils to ⅔ cup.

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